by Victoria Ritter
Founded in 1980, AMIGO Games kicked off with familiar mass-market games like Uno but quickly began to produce original games. Today, it has 44 items in its catalog – including classics like Bohnanza, Take 5 and No Thanks! – which span various categories from strategy and party games to learning games for kids.
The company is based in Germany, but established a U.S. office in 2018; the mission was to bring AMIGO Games to North America as its own company. “The goal was to be able to tell our own stories, and give our games the spotlight we think that they deserve!” said Alex Yeager, COO of AMIGO Games.
Yeager worked with AMIGO Games as a licensor and licensee for years in his previous position with Mayfair Games. When he was approached to join AMIGO Games in 2021, he jumped at the opportunity to work with familiar colleagues and use his love of Eurostyle games.
Yeager recently sat down with edplay to discuss what goes into designing a game from AMIGO Games and how the brand has engaged multiple generations in play.
What was your favorite board or card game to play when you were growing up?
Like most kids, I played my share of Monopoly and Uno. I sat in my grandparents’ living room every Sunday and played rummy and two-handed pinochle with my grandfather. In high school, friends introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, Eon’s Cosmic Encounters and Steve Jackson Games’ Illuminati, and an entirely new world of board games opened up for me.
What do you enjoy most about working at AMIGO Games?
It is a company that prides itself on easy-to-learn games that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. A game like No Thanks! has an impossibly small ruleset, but provides a depth of gameplay that other games can’t match. Working on games that will be enjoyed by both 4-year-olds and seasoned gameplayers means that our work can be appreciated by a large audience!
What would you say is the key to AMIGO Games’ longevity?
It is always grounded in quality games for broad audiences. As AMIGO began to build its library, it discovered that it had the skill and staff to find and produce games that could sell for decades; by doing so, it could build a generational legacy of gameplayers – playing with friends becomes parents playing with children. With games that have 30 years of sales, we’re starting to see those same players prepare to play with their grandchildren. Simplicity of rules and quality components means that our games stay a part of a household’s game library for years!
Your products cover several categories. Why is it important to provide such a variety of games?
So many of our games are created from the beginning for a wide range of experiences. A great example is our 2022 Kinderspiel des Jahres (Kids’ Game of the Year) winner Magic Mountain. A 5-year-old – and even younger, as the game is a cooperative game – can enjoy rolling a marble down the hill and watch the marbles hit the witches to make them move. Meanwhile, older players can approach the game as a logic gate, risk-and-reward exercise, and the game will reward you for the extra analysis.
How do you design a new game? What factors are considered?
We work with a huge network of game designers who approach us with close to 1,500 deigns each year to choose from. Our editorial team is always looking for those basic elements of a successful game: is it easy to learn? Is there depth to the gameplay? Is there good interaction among the players? Does it last the right length of time, with the right components to let the game shine? And, will it feel like a part of our line on a shelf with its siblings – unique in itself, but likely to be appreciated by our fans?
What would you say is your most popular game and to what do you attribute its popularity?
Our number one seller remains Bohnanza, and with good reason. More than 25 years past its initial release, it remains one of the best trading and negotiation games you can play, wrapped up in a simple theme about growing and harvesting plants for money. More than three dozen expansions and stand-alone versions later, the game is still exploring new spaces, such as our recently-released Dahlias version!
What trends have you seen recently in games? How does AMIGO Games keep abreast of those trends?
Trends are dangerous things. Being aware of what is in the marketplace and what’s popular is important to inform what a game might look like, or an audience that might be particularly receptive to a theme. But the game – its mechanisms and play – should always have a timeless feel for long-term success. Game experiences organically created by players will allow players to bring trends into their games, even if it’s just via casual conversation.
Why should specialty toy stores carry AMIGO Games’ products?
Ninety percent of our games are under $20 MSRP, which means that our games are inexpensive and attractive to budget-conscious shoppers. CLACK and our My First AMIGO card games (for children as young as 3 to 5 years old) provide a unique game experience for younger players. And because of our history, having a game like Bohnanza or No Thanks! is a signal to hobby gamers who come into your store that you are a source for games they like; it’s demonstrated with a small, attractive footprint and price point.
What advice do you have for retailers to effectively sell your games?
Demo our games! We provide free demo copies with initial purchases (and as older sets wear out). Keeping an open set of CLACK or Magic Mountain lets the toy value of the game attract customers, and they can understand the rules with less than a minute of explanation. In fact, our games have a three-step introduction on the back of every box that teaches players the basics of the game in under 10 seconds (easy for customers and store staff). More resources are available on our Retailer Portal on our website such as product art, safety testing information and social media assets.
What’s next for AMIGO Games?
More games! We have two anniversaries for our games in 2024 (Saboteur’s 20th and Take 5’s 30th), as well as a new series of games that feature pencils as dice. Watch for our product announcements on our website and our social media channels!